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Office suites are the mainstays of modern knowledge workers, and bringing them online paves the way for the collaboration that makes remote work possible among distributed teams. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, much attention was paid to the use of online videoconferencing through tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Support for face-to-face meetings, taking the place of in-person collaboration, took center stage for organizations looking to replicate their in-office experience.

 

The numbers were certainly impressive. Microsoft reported that the number of daily active users of Teams ballooned to 75 million. The number of minutes spent in Microsoft Teams meetings per day grew from 560 million on March 12 to 2.7 billion on March 31. Total video calls grew 1,000 percent over the month of March. For its part, Google reported that Hangouts Meet usage surged with 60% day-over-day growth during the latter two weeks of March, reaching 25 times the daily usage reported in January. And Zoom, which in particular saw incredible adoption among educators, went from ten million daily participants in December to 200 million in March — a twentyfold increase.

 

Collaboration: More than communication

 

On a more fundamental level, however, productive and effective collaboration calls for attention to how work actually gets done. Document-sharing solutions such SharePoint Online, OneDrive and Google Drive allow teams of workers to share and co-author documents with a high degree of security. While some organizations might have had the cloud office suites in place, they were forced to dispatch personnel to the physical location  to retrieve remote drives and upload the content to cloud stores so remote employees could get back to work.

 

Organizations whose digital transformation initiatives were further along were already using cloud storage for data and documents. Their shift to remote work was much more straightforward. For more on this topic, see Digital Transformation: The Foundation for Remote Work.

 

On the other hand, others were challenged to complete a large-scale cloud migration in short order. They found this could be more-quickly accomplished with the aid of third-party experts. Read Fast Track to Remote Work: Cloud Migration via MSPs.

 

More-seamless collaboration through cloud-office storage

 

For any team, and for remote-work teams especially, cloud-based document sharing is far superior to dispersed, isolated document stores and chains of progressive versions shared by email. Such solutions allow collaboration with individuals outside of the organization, with granular security controls that are much easier for IT to manage than the exposure that comes with allowing access to an internal data center. Office 365 sensitivity labels, data loss prevention policies, strong authentication and other measures protect against data leakage. Storage expense is reduced, backup and data protection are more streamlined, and workers throughout the organization can focus on the content rather than the minutiae of version control.

 

Building a culture of collaboration

 

This is not to say that simply providing a complete set of collaboration tools is all it takes to collaborate. Some habits born in the physical office don’t transfer easily to the world of remote work, where co-workers no longer physically interact.  Document-sharing, video conferencing, calls and chats can’t fully substitute for in-person meetings in the flesh. Businesses need to pay attention to building a culture of collaboration so that individuals stay engaged as a team. This will become increasingly vital as businesses extend remote work to more users.